December 22, 2023- Posted in Disabilities, Education, Events, Lebanon, Uncategorized

In Beirut, Lebanon, the children of St. Luke’s enjoy an annual Christmas Celebration & Parade

The children of St. Luke’s sing hymns, perform plays, and enjoy a festive parade that reflects the spirit of Christmas in Beirut, Lebanon.

Beirut, Lebanon – St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center (SLRC) is a boarding, day school, and rehabilitation center serving students with a wide range of cognitive disabilities. Located in the town of Beit Mery, just outside of Beirut, the center serves approximately 50 children and young adults. Most of the students come from extreme poverty and receive education and care at no cost. St. Luke’s provides a unique blend of academic education, vocational training, and therapeutic services, bridging the gap between learning and practical skill development to empower its students to lead more holistic and well-rounded lives.

St. Luke’s leaders and staff are battling a long-standing challenge to shift the cultural perception that persists in marginalizing cognitively-disabled children. Oftentimes, in Lebanon, children born with a cognitive impairment are shunned and raised in isolation to maintain public, familial anonymity for fear of being ostracized from their communities. To combat this, the center works frequently with parents to help them better understand and accept their child’s disability while training them to support their child’s educational rights. This community outreach and educational work helps to reduce cases of abuse and neglect.

St. Luke’s offers a warm, loving, holistic education to the children they serve, working with students to teach them how to take care of their basic needs, navigate their daily activities, and gain independence. The older students may also access vocational training through their on-site chocolatier and bakery as well as through custom glass-painting. Sales from St. Luke’s Confectionery partially subsidize the operational costs of the school.

Celebration at St. Luke’s on December 6, 2023 for St. Nicholas’ Feast Day

Every year, St. Luke’s holds a large Christmas celebration for children, parents, staff, and teachers. The Student Choir sings Christmas hymns and songs, and each class of children performs either a prepared dance or short play that reflects the spirit of Christmas.

Following the children’s festive performances and Christmas parade, the children exchange “Secret Santa” gifts that they each created from painted glass with Madame Micheline, St. Luke’s resident glass artist. This interactive, creative method of gift-giving is meaningful to everyone involved, and offers the children an opportunity to use their imagination to customize and create their ideal gift and see it come to life for one another. This also eliminates the need to purchase outside gifts – a luxury that many families in Lebanon cannot afford since the country’s total financial collapse in 2021, leaving over 80% of Lebanon’s population living below the poverty line, with nearly 40% in extreme poverty.

Parents, teachers, and friends may also purchase candies, chocolates, and baked goods from St. Luke’s Confectionery during the reception at affordable costs.

St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center is a Diocese of Jerusalem institution. Its Director, Archdeacon Imad Zoorob, is also the rector of All Saints Episcopal Evangelical Church in Beirut, Lebanon, and All Saints Evangelical Church in Damascus, Syria.